Hope in the midst of chaos

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Emily Copeland
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

Going into the year of 2020, everyone always says this will be the best year yet or this is the year to really crush some goals. However, 2020 had something totally different in store for all of us.

I also thought this year would be a great one. I had just started a new civilian job working with the Oregon Judicial Department as a civil data entry clerk in Lane County and recently was accepted to Oregon State University to finally finish my degree I’ve been putting off for a few years. So many new and exciting events were happening in my life, and then the first signs of this new virus and invisible enemy, COVID-19 or coronavirus, began circulating on the internet and in the news.

I kept thinking to myself, what does this mean? What could happen? Could this possibly be worse than the average seasonal flu? There were too many questions running through my head and no time to fully process the news when the United States began warning citizens of its deadly impact beginning to show in other countries.

During March drill weekend, I finally felt the effects of this virus when reality hit and COVID-19 had officially made its landfall in our great state. My public affairs leadership sat us all down in our shop and explained what this meant for us and how to prepare for what could be a very trying time in each of our lives.

We are always told to prepare for the worst, to be ready at a moment’s notice when a large event could take place in or outside of the United States. But this? I am prepared to pack up my belongings and head out to an unknown location. I am prepared to give my all to fight for what I love. I am prepared to defend and keep my state safe. I am prepared to help those in need during times of catastrophe. I was however, not prepared for a worldwide pandemic that has already taken thousands of lives and forever changing the lives of a million others.  

Being geographically separated from my base is normal with my role as a drill status guardsman for the Oregon Air National Guard. Although during this pandemic, it has been more difficult. Where my three years of active duty taught me to rely on my Air Force family and leadership through the storm, it’s very different when your closest form of that family is four hours away.

As a guardsman, you no longer look to your drill weekends for financial support as you would on normal active duty service. Therefore most traditional guard members will have a full or part-time job to help form that financial stability. While the thought of staying at home in your favorite sweats and cuddling up on the couch to watch Netflix sounds like an ideal vacation, it becomes worrisome when that becomes a permanent vacation with no paycheck.

I was sent home from my job of one month after the orders from Governor Kate Brown came down to the people of Oregon on March 23 to stay at home until further notice. I am extremely lucky that although I had been temporarily sent home, I still had a job that was paying me until further information was given from our Chief Justice.

Throughout March, April and most of May, I was stuck at home but busy with completing my spring term in college. While I was bored and craving outside human interaction, I made the best of the situation and spent time focusing on school, my Airman Leadership Course, and creating a large vegetable garden that I usually don’t have time for when I am working.

Although there are many negatives that have come from this virus, there are also many positives. The amount of love and respect during this time from people I’ve never met is something I have never seen before. People are finding the kindness of others to be a beacon of light through the rough seas. As the Air Force has become my second family, I am seeing the same comradery we share but it’s now in a non-military community.

As my wing commander, Col. Jeffrey Edwards, has told us: we will get through this together. I am thankful to have such a supportive team at Kingsley Field who is constantly looking out for me and my family, even if it’s calling to make sure I have toilet paper, to sending me a birthday card during quarantine --  it’s feeling that you are taken care of that truly matters. I have only been a part of the ORANG for a year, but it feels like I have known my team forever. The Air Force has given me all the right tools to succeed in normal life and in the midst of chaos.

To my brothers and sisters in arms, we have a plethora of resources and people that are willing to help you through any fight. If you need an ear to listen to your troubles and worries, we are here. If you need financial help, we are here. If you just need someone to visit with, we are here (virtually). 

We still do not know how long this fight will last but hold steadfast in your resilient nature and keep your head high. While the unknown is frightening, we still must do our part in keeping ourselves and others safe so that we may get back to our “new normal”. But most importantly be kind to others, you never know who needs just a few supportive words and someone to be there for them.

 There will be light at the end of this tunnel. Stay safe Team Kingsley.